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The League Cup Joke Has Gone on Long Enough and It Needs Shutting Down

03/03/2016 16:57 GMT | Updated 04/03/2017 10:12 GMT

The League Cup and FA Cup have long found themselves in conflict of some kind or other - competing for fan attention and relevance in an increasingly crowded footballing landscape.

The FA Cup - English football's nominal blue riband event - is the one under attack this season. Nobody of prominence has been bold enough to suggest that the competition be scrapped, but certain tweaks are beginning to gain some traction.

The scrapping of replays has been a popular suggestion with a number of managers (although some lower league chairmen may be less keen), and the League Cup has been largely shielded from notice by the well-meaning rocks being hurled at its big brother.

That, as it turns out, is actually pretty fortunate. Because if this season has shown us anything at all, it's exactly how pointless the League Cup (or Capital One Cup, Carling Cup, Rumbelows Cup or Milk Cup, depending on your age) is.

At a time in English football where the fixture list is growing ever more crowded, there is less and less of an excuse for the League Cup's continued existence as an institution. The abolition of FA Cup replays might knock a single game off a team's fixture list in a given season, but getting rid of the League Cup gives a guaranteed break to every single club, and would knock multiple games off the schedule for most big clubs.

Jurgen Klopp's introduction to the English setup has been fascinating to watch over the course of the season, jumping into an unfamiliar league from a completely different system in Germany and marvelling at the sheer weight of fixtures. Little wonder his players spent his first couple of months in the country being ground into the dirt and helped onto the physio's table.

The idea of FA Cup replays was something of an alien one for the German - and from a country which doesn't even have a secondary cup competition, the League Cup's two-legged semi-final was something of a culture shock. Add that to the fact that the Bundesliga season is four games shorter than the Premier League's, and English clubs' failures in late-season European competition begins to make sense. They might not be great teams, but they're also knackered mediocre teams.

The League Cup (henceforth 'That Bloody Thing', because the name's even boring to write) adds to that fixture congestion as much as anything else - and is less valuable.

That Bloody Thing was originally created by the Football League in the 60s to exert power over the FA and respond to the growing popularity of European competitions. If it wasn't abundantly clear - neither of those issues are really issues anymore. That Bloody Thing is the whipping boy for all other competitions, and is all-but on life support in terms of public interest.

With the original purpose flapping in the wind, feeble and spent, what is the point now? At best, it's just the last chance for a desperate, struggling manager to grab a trophy to salvage a poor season and save his job. At worst, it's a distraction and an excuse to play a handful of no-mark reserves and give 15 minutes of nominally first-team action to some bright young stars of tomorrow.

Just days after this season's final - between two teams with genuinely sizeable fanbases and decent teams - the entire football world has moved on. The final was a footnote to the weekend's Premier League action, not even the belle of its own ball.

That Bloody Thing could still serve a purpose, if used correctly. It could become a genuinely useful and competitive competition if, for example, Olympic-style rules were introduced, allowing just three players over the age of 23 to feature. It wouldn't solve the issue of dissipating interest - very little can - but at least it would begin to serve a purpose higher than 'desperation award'.

It could work, too, if the Premier League was shorn of a team or two, condensing the fixture list in that manner and allowing teams to devote real attention to That Bloody Thing. But neither of those things will ever happen, because it's just not worth it. Injecting 10% more life into the shambling corpse of a pointless competition at the cost of changing the entire league structure? Shouldn't happen. Can't happen. Won't happen.

That being the case, the time has long since come to take That Bloody Thing out behind the shed and respectfully, humanely, unload both barrels into the back of its head. Anything else would be cruelty.

Oh, and congratulations Manchester City.

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